An autonomous car is a vehicle capable of sensing its environment and operating without human involvement. A human passenger is not required to take control of the vehicle at any time, nor is a human passenger required to be present in the vehicle at all. An autonomous car can go anywhere a traditional car goes and do everything that an experienced human driver does.
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) currently defines 6 levels of driving automation ranging from Level 0 (fully manual) to Level 5 (fully autonomous). These levels have been adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Autonomous vs. Automated vs. Self-Driving: What’s the Difference?
The SAE uses the term automated instead of autonomous. One reason is that the word autonomy has implications beyond the electromechanical. A fully autonomous car would be self-aware and capable of making its own choices. For example, you say “drive me to work” but the car decides to take you to the beach instead. A fully automated car, however, would follow orders and then drive itself.
The term self-driving is often used interchangeably with autonomous. However, it’s a slightly different thing. A self-driving car can drive itself in some or even all situations, but a human passenger must always be present and ready to take control. Self-driving cars would fall under Level 3 (conditional driving automation) or Level 4 (high driving automation). They are subject to geofencing, unlike a fully autonomous Level 5 car that could go anywhere.
Autonomous cars rely on sensors, actuators, complex algorithms, machine learning systems, and powerful processors to execute software.
Autonomous cars create and maintain a map of their surroundings based on a variety of sensors situated in different parts of the vehicle. Radar sensors monitor the position of nearby vehicles. Video cameras detect traffic lights, read road signs, track other vehicles, and look for pedestrians. Lidar (light detection and ranging) sensors bounce pulses of light off the car’s surroundings to measure distances, detect road edges, and identify lane markings. Ultrasonic sensors in the wheels detect curbs and other vehicles when parking.
Sophisticated software then processes all this sensory input, plots a path, and sends instructions to the car’s actuators, which control acceleration, braking, and steering. Hard-coded rules, obstacle avoidance algorithms, predictive modeling, and object recognition help the software follow traffic rules and navigate obstacles.
Fully autonomous (Level 5) cars are undergoing testing in several pockets of the world, but none are yet available to the general public. We’re still years away from that. The challenges range from the technological and legislative to the environmental and philosophical. Here are just some of the unknowns.
Following the traffic rules is the biggest challenges of all. To over come this challenges companies like Ford, Mercedes Benz and so many are coming up with the solution with the combination of cameras. Cameras are used to detect the traffic signal colors and signs on the road. With this technology, it made easy to detect the presence of persons any object on the path too.
Who is liable for accidents caused by an autonomous car? The manufacturer? The human passenger? So many questions like this are coming. We are using for the
- Ev3 brick
- Ultrasonic sensor
- Color sensor
- Lego Mindstorm ev3 brick.
The scenarios for convenience and quality-of-life improvements are limitless. The elderly and the physically disabled would have independence. If your kids were at summer camp and forgot their bathing suits and toothbrushes, the car could bring them the missing items. You could even send your dog to a veterinary appointment.
But the real promise of autonomous cars is the potential for dramatically lowering CO2 emissions. In a recent study, experts identified three trends that, if adopted concurrently, would unleash the full potential of autonomous cars: vehicle automation, vehicle electrification, and ridesharing. By 2050, these “three revolutions in urban transportation” could:
- Reduce traffic congestion (30% fewer vehicles on the road)
- Cut transportation costs by 40% (in terms of vehicles, fuel, and infrastructure)
- Improve walkability and livability
- Free up parking lots for other uses (schools, parks, community centers)
- Reduce urban CO2 emissions by 80% worldwide